The Brain


Learning Goal

Students will learn about the two systems of the brain: the fight-or-flight amygdala and the thoughtful prefrontal cortex.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the lessons, students will be able to:

  • Describe the lizard brain and identify situations when this part of the brain is used
  • Describe the wizard brain and identify situations when this part of the brain is used

Learning Summary

This week’s lesson will introduce two basic parts of the brain: the lizard brain (the amygdala) and the wizard brain (the prefrontal cortex). We do not expect you to become an expert in neuroscience to teach this lesson.

The lesson starts with a mindful breathing activity then moves to an introduction of the lizard and wizard brains. The lizard brain, responsible for processing threats and activated in strong emotional situations, is often referred to as the fight-or-flight response. The wizard brain is responsible for complex thought, planning, decision-making, impulse control, and self-awareness. The Munchy and Jumpy story then tells of a scavenger hunt in which the rabbits learn how their friends, representing the two parts of the brain, respond to different situations. An activity gives students an opportunity to decide which part of their brain they would use in different scenarios. Students end by reflecting through a drawing.

CASEL Competencies

Self-awareness: The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior. The ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a "growth mindset."

Self-management: The ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations — effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself. The ability to set and work toward personal and academic goals.

Decision-making: The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms. The realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and a consideration of the well-being of oneself and others.

Classroom Teaching Example